Having grown up with the 3D platformers of the Playstation 2 era, I was intrigued by Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island from the moment I saw it. It seemed to have everything I wanted from a platformer – the charming gameplay, the vibrant setting, and of course, a dynamic duo of heroes. What more could you ask for? Whilst Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island certainly delivers on those fronts though, it lets itself down by proving to be a short-lived experience.
Much like other platforming releases, Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island doesn’t really have the most intricate of plots. It starts off with titular hero Skylar, a bipedal feline that bears some resemblances to a platforming Lombax you might be familiar with, waking up as a prisoner aboard a Space Station with a mysterious robotic arm attached to her body. After managing to break free and escaping from the super-villain CRT, she crashes lands on Clover Island – a beautiful paradise that’s home to a host of tropical creatures, one of which is a chopsy owl named Plux. With her memories wiped clean, Skylar is joined by Plux and guided by the AI of her robotic arm (aptly named ARM) on a quest to save the inhabitants of the Island from CRT and restore peace and harmony once more.
It’s hardly the most thrilling of plotlines and doesn’t feature anything you wouldn’t have seen before, though it’s charming enough to hook you in initially. Unfortunately, there’s no real feeling of progression to the plot. Whilst it’s easy to see the changes you’re bringing upon the Island as you slowly foil CRT’s plans and help save the natives, everything happens so quickly that it’s hard to enjoy taking it all in. You never really learn anything about any of the characters either, with their personalities clearly changing a little as you progress through the game but with nothing really happening to represent it. You don’t really feel like you get to know the characters, with everything about them given to you in such small detail that it’s hard to any sense of attachment towards them. Games like ‘Jak and Daxter’ and ‘Ratchet and Clank’ managed to nail this, but the lack of personality is clearly evident in Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island.
It doesn’t stop Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island being a lot of fun to play through though. To the developer’s credit, they’ve really nailed the 2000s platforming vibe – something I think they were clearly aspiring to achieve. Skylar feels great to control whilst levels are cleverly designed too, with a great mixture of platforming, puzzle solving, and combat coming together to produce some thoroughly enjoyable gameplay.
Platforming is kept simple with most areas simply requiring jumping or the use of Skylar’s grappling hook to proceed through, though you do eventually unlock extra equipment such as the rocket pack that’ll allow Skylar to hover over longer distances between platforms. All of the common tropes of the platforming genre are present in each level too; you’ve got falling platforms, disappearing platforms, bouncing pads… you get the picture. It makes for some enjoyable platforming segments that feel satisfying to complete. Sure, nothing ever really feels all that challenging and the levels are incredibly linear for the most part, but it’s doesn’t stop it being fun to play.
Combat is kept incredibly simple too, with Skylar equipped with the ability to punch, do a spinning attack, or a ground pound to attack from above. It all works well and, like the platforming, is pretty easy to control. It’s a little difficult to feel that invigorated by combat though given that the game features an incredibly limited variety of enemies. There are only three different kinds of enemies in total, each of which are incredibly predictable in design and easy to take down. There’s only one boss battle in the game too, so it’s hard not to feel slightly underwhelmed by the combat situations featured in Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad by any means, but it’s hard to feel enthusiastic about it.
You do unlock a few extra pieces of gear that help spice things up a little though. Whilst you’ve got the aforementioned rocket pack that can help you traverse through levels easily, there’s also the magnetic glove that’ll allow you to grab anything metallic as well as the special orb that allows you to momentarily slow down time. These both add an extra bit variety to the game and help keep things interesting; each level you explore in the game has its own unique hook that makes it feel different to the last, so you’re continually performing more unique tasks as you work your way through the game.
These pieces of equipment are often used to solve the game’s puzzles, with a few enigmas popping up during your journey. Much like most aspects of Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island, these puzzles are always simple and won’t test you too much. Some can be pretty clever though (especially those that see you manipulating time), but unfortunately the game’s short length often meant a lot of these mechanics are left underutilised.
One of Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island’s biggest shortcomings is the fact that the game can be easily beaten in less than two hours. In fact, I managed to complete the game in one hour and forty seven minutes, and that’s after rescuing nearly all of the captive Lo’a in the game. Aside from finding the remaining Lo’a, there was absolutely nothing on offer to incite me to return after the credits. There’s next to no replayability, with barely any hidden secrets or extra collectibles to be found on Clover Island. 3D platformers have often prided themselves on all of their hidden secrets to uncover or extra challenges to complete post-completion, but Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is severely lacking. It’s a shame; whilst the game doesn’t do anything thrilling from a gameplay perspective, I was enjoying playing it.
Visually, the game looks fantastic, with some vibrant locations on show that are absolutely full to the brim with personality. You’ll explore the likes of a snowy mountain, an Egyptian tomb, a futuristic facility – sure, they’re all locations that you’d have seen a thousand times before in other platformers, but they still look great in-game and are a real treat to explore. Each area is pretty big too; whilst the game doesn’t necessarily feature an open-world (you’ll come across plenty of loading screens), the sheer size of the each level is certainly impressive.
There’s a lot to like about Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island thanks to its charming old-school platforming and vibrant setting. It’s fun for just about anyone to pick up and play, and whilst it’s incredibly simple in design, it also just so happens to be a lot of fun.
However, it’s let down by the sheer lack of challenge and its incredibly short running time. It was pretty disappointing to see the game over in under two hours – especially with very little to return after you’ve seen those end credits. Add to that the incredibly easy difficulty (I only died once) and the simple gameplay mechanics, and it becomes pretty difficult to recommend Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island over any of the better platformers that are available on the market right now.
Developer: Right Nice Games
Publisher: Grip Digital
Release Date: 19/05/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC